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A 'predator' meeting at a park

by Chris Hansen, Dateline correspondent

Long Beach, California is our eighth "To Catch a Predator" investigation in two years. You'd think by now that potential predators would get the message -- not so.

In Long Beach, we saw the second highest number of men in any of our previous investigations. 38 men showed up in three days. 35 of them were charged with crimes including an attempted lewd act upon a child. So far, 12 of them have pleaded no contest or guilty.

We did see something in Long Beach that we didn't see in our previous investigations and it forced us to adapt behind-the-scenes: Some of the men, perhaps having heard about our earlier shows, were afraid to come to the house and instead wanted to meet at a different location.

Take the case of 48-year old Frank Sierras. Sierras had been caught by Perverted-Justice a few years ago allegedly having a sexually charged online chat with a decoy posing as a 13-year-old girl. That was before Dateline's investigations. (Sierras was never arrested or charged with a crime after this first alleged conversation with Perverted-Justice, said he was innocent, and threatened to sue Perverted-Justice for posting a transcript of that conversation.)

Late this summer Sierras surfaced again chatting with a decoy pretending to be a 13-year-old girl during our Petaluma, California investigation.  He never showed up at that house.

He kept chatting with the decoy though, who now told him she was visiting friends in Long Beach. Perhaps because he'd been caught by PJ before, Sierras wanted to meet our decoy at a park near our Long Beach house. We scrambled to set up cameras in and around the park and get our decoy in position. According to the chat log, Sierras discussed driving the girl home – all the way from Long Beach back to northern California, offering to take her to Disneyland along the way.

As you'll see tonight, not only did he drive 300 miles to Long Beach -- he also took several steps to cover his tracks. In the end, it doesn't work and Sierras is arrested, but not before a tense conversation with the decoy and a dramatic confrontation with our cameras. 

Part 2 of the Long Beach "To Catch a Predator" investigation airs tonight, Tuesday, Feb. 6, 8 p.m. Click here to watch Chris' chat with Meredith Vieira (on TODAY this morning) about the upcoming report.